Thailand Birding Trip Report December 12th 2013 - January 3rd 2014

Andy Walker

Blue Pitta at Kaeng Krachan National Park

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Outline Itinerary
Bangkok (December 12th) Pak Thale & Laem Pak Bia (December 13th-14th) Petchaburi Rice Fields (December 14th) Kaeng Krachan NP (December 14th-20th) Doi Inthanon (December 20th-25th) Doi Chiang Dao Area (December 25th-29th) Doi Lang Area (December 29th-31st) Mekong River/Chiang Saen Area (January 1st) Huay Tueng Tao (January 2nd) Bangkok (Suan Luang Park) (January 3rd) I flew Manchester (UK) to Bangkok via Dubai with Emirates Airways. Flights ran smoothly and pretty much on time. My layovers in Dubai were 1.5hrs, these were just about long enough to make my transfers and grab a drink. Hired two cars and had an internal flight.

Birding Highlights
This was my first trip to Thailand, organised after I’d had a great time birding in Malaysia in March 2013 (Trip report here: Elsewhere within the Oriental region I’ve also visited Borneo (2007) and India (2009), though neither of these were specific birding trips. On this trip I recorded 460 species, just under half of these were new birds; the following are some of my highlights: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Spoon-billed Sandpiper – 1 seen at Pak Thale on two dates. Nordmann’s Greenshank – 8+ seen at Laem Pak Bia Salt Pans. Chinese Egret – 1 seen at Laem Pak Bia Sand Spit. Eared Pitta – 1 seen at Lung Sin Waterhole, Kaeng Krachan. Blue Pitta – 1 seen at Kaeng Krachan National Park. Giant Nuthatch – 2 seen and c.4 heard at Doi Chiang Dao. Kalij Pheasant – Several seen at Kaeng Krachan. Great Hornbill – Several seen at Kaeng Krachan. Tickell’s Brown Hornbill – Several seen at Kaeng Krachan. Silver-breasted Broadbill – 1 seen at Kaeng Krachan, 4-6 seen at Doi Chiang Dao. Black-and-Yellow Broadbill – 1 seen at Kaeng Krachan. Long-tailed Broadbill – Heard only at Doi Chiang Dao. Black-and-Red Broadbill – 1 seen at Kaeng Krachan. Red-headed Trogon – 1 female seen at Kaeng Krachan. Red-bearded Bee-eater – At least 1 seen at Kaeng Krachan. Blue-bearded Bee-eater – Several seen at Kaeng Krachan. Blyth’s Frogmouth – 1 heard at Doi Chiang Dao. Pied Harrier – 1 adult male at Petchaburi Rice Fields, several hundred coming in to roost at Chiang Saen with several hundred Eastern Marsh Harriers. Ratchet-tailed Treepie – A pair at Kaeng Krachan seen on two dates. Black-tailed Crake – 2 seen at the Doi Inthanon km 30 Camp Site. Bamboo Woodpecker – 1 seen at Kaeng Krachan with others heard at Kaeng Krachan and Doi Chiang Dao. Banded Kingfisher – 1 female at Doi Chiang Dao. Golden Bush Robin – 1 male and 1 female at Doi Lang. Ultramarine Flycatcher – 1 male at Doi Lang. Sapphire Flycatcher – 1 non-breeding male at Doi Lang. Dark-sided Thrush – 3 seen at Doi Inthanon. Chestnut Thrush – 1 at Doi Lang.

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


• • • • • • • • • •

Himalayan Bluetail – Common at Doi Lang and one on the Doi Inthanon Summit broadwalk. Red-flanked Bluetail – A few at Doi Lang. Asian Stubtail – 1 seen at Doi Inthanon. Siberian Rubythroat – Common in the North where many seen well. Siberian Blue Robin – Several at Kaeng Krachan and one at Doi Inthanon. Blue-fronted Redstart – 1 female at Doi Lang. Daurian Redstart – 1 male at Doi Inthanon. Fire-tailed Sunbird – 2 at Doi Lang. Greater Painted Snipe – 1 female at Thaton Rice Paddies. Long-tailed Duck – 2 birds on Chiang Saen Lake, believed to be the second national record!

Himalayan Bluetail at Doi Lang

A good, and wide range of other species including: 16 species of Woodpecker, 39 species of Old World Chats, 18 species of Bulbul, 26 species of Babbler, 37 species of Warbler, 39 species of Wader and a whole host of other highly sought species. I’ve included a range of photos in the report; most are taken at high ISO due to dark forest conditions so are a bit grainy in places but hopefully they give a good idea! Most photos in this report were taken with my Panasonic Lumix FZ-200, with a couple off my IPhone 5s.

Site and Travel Information
I went on this trip with a birder from Miami, Florida, Carlos Sanchez. I put together the itinerary after chatting to a range of local birders/guides, reading a few trip reports and speaking to people I know

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


who have birded over there. This was my first visit to Thailand and Carlos’ first trip to the Old World so there was a lot of new birds for each of us. The main target of the trip was Spoon-billed Sandpiper with anything else a bonus. I hoped for seeing some Pittas but was told in no uncertain terms that I’d stand practically no chance given the time of year and that I’d be better heading north to try for a wide range of species available up there. So I decided on a week south of Bangkok in the central area (Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale Area and Kaeng Krachan) and then two weeks around the north of the country (Doi Inthanon, Doi Chiang Dao, Doi Lang, Chiang Saen). As the trip was in two fairly distinct areas we met up at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, hired a car for a week while we did the central areas, before returning it, flying north to Chiang Mai where we picked up another hire car for the two weeks we were in the north.

Getting Around - Cars
Car hire was a reasonable cost for the three weeks. I booked it from the UK with Hertz International several months before going. I could have probably got it a bit cheaper by looking around more but was happy to go with a company I recognised. As it turned out everything ran very smoothly and picking up/dropping off etc. was very easy with staff polite, friendly and English-speaking both in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I had a Toyota Vios for a week and a Honda City for two weeks, both were Automatics and fine to drive and managed on the hills in the north. I got an app for my IPhone – ‘TOMTOM S.E.Asia’. This was a godsend and without it, getting around, generally, and to the various birding locations would have been very difficult/stressful and not much fun! Road signage in Thailand is generally ok but is fairly bad at times. Driving was generally easy, however the Thai’s driving often leaves a lot to be desired. The one rule to remember is that there are no rules! Fuel was fairly cheap, about £30/40 to fill up but the fuel tanks didn’t appear huge. There was plenty of fuel stations though not all stations sold all types of fuel. We did find it a bit difficult finding fuel stations near the airports which was a bit of a pain, especially as the traffic near the airports was generally worse than elsewhere. We hired a road car (not 4x4) and we managed to get by without needing the 4x4 capability, though 4x4 is essential in some areas. See ‘Birding Sites’ for specifics for each site. Note that the type of vehicle you have may mean that you have to take certain roads to get to certain birding points – e.g. for Doi Lang in a normal road car you need to drive up from the Fang side rather than the Thaton side, therefore it would be best to find accommodation in Fang rather than Thaton, doing so will save an hours driving each day.

Getting Around - Flights
I flew between Bangkok and Chiang Mai with Air Asia (from Don Muang). The flight was quick, about an hour or so and the planes were good and staff friendly etc. One thing to bear in mind if doing something similar or anything out of Don Muang – the system here was total chaos at the time of our visit. Everyone was using the ‘quick check-in’ option, then queuing for an hour or so to drop off bags, all flights going through the same desk…! We’d made sure we had enough time at the airport but there were others who weren’t as prepared.

I stayed at the Best Western near Suvarnabhumi Airport at the start and end of my trip as it was conveniently located. I stayed at the I-Tara Resort in the Laem Pak Bia area (one night), then at Baan Maka for birding at Kaeng Krachan (six nights), Highland Resort (one night) and Mr Deang’s (four nights) for birding at Doi Inthanon, Malees (four nights) for birding at Doi Chiang Dao, and a B&B in Thaton (four nights) for birding at Doi Lang and Chiang Saen. Due to going over New Year (a big
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker 4

public holiday) I booked all accommodation well in advance (except for hotels near the airport due to the large number of these). Some notes on the above accommodation:

Best Western Suvarnbhumi – Good hotel near the airport, secure parking, free Wi-Fi and free shuttle bus to/from airport. Clean, big rooms, good bathroom, food ok etc. Booked last minute through Agoda with much reduced rates. I-Tara Resort – A nice hotel, good food/drink etc. Booked through Agoda. Not the cheapest but a
good location being only minutes away from all of the decent birding locations. Free Wi-Fi throughout.

Baan Maka – This was one of my favourite places on the trip. Tom, the owner of Baan Maka was incredibly friendly and went out of his way to ensure we had everything we needed during our stay. He organised our trips to Lung Sin Waterhole and organised for us to go into the National Park (Kaeng Krachan) with a local guide for a day and with a driver and 4x4 on another. The food at Baan Maka was very nice and plentiful for all meals. Free Wi-Fi in the dining area. I booked directly with Tom through Highland Resort – Didn’t spend much time here, arrived late at night, and left first thing in the morning. Even with the GPS information and the Sat Nav this place was difficult to find in the dark when we arrived, no signs in English etc. (it has possibly had a name change too). Didn’t particularly find the staff very helpful and the food wasn’t great. Free Wi-Fi throughout. Booked directly through Mr Deang’s – Very basic. Food here was ok, breakfast was nice when we had it, though we were disappointed not to be able to get an early breakfast/packed breakfast when we enquired about it (especially when it appeared other groups were given this service). The location was very good for getting to the upper birding trails. There is no heating here and it gets very cold at night. I’d recommend bringing thermals and possibly a fleece sleeping bag! Free Wi-Fi throughout. Booked directly through Malee’s – A nice lodge. We had the basic rooms, bed only with shared bathrooms, these were more than adequate for what we needed. The food here was very nice, breakfasts especially and the staff friendly. We benefited here by the presence of the very helpful Neil Lawton, a British bird guide ( who provided us with a load of information on birding around Doi Chiang Dao and also at Doi Lang. Free Wi-Fi throughout. Booked directly through B&B in Thaton – We stayed in what started off as a very nice B&B in Thaton (great rooms and very comfy beds), however the guy who owned it was a crazy racist so I’m not giving him any publicity. There was a very nice restaurant in Thaton by the large bridge. The service was incredibly slow but the food was the best we ate in the country, by a long shot so it was well worth the wait.

Miscellaneous (Weather/Food/Itinerary)
We got lucky with rain we only had one shower on one afternoon whilst at Kaeng Krachan National Park. Reading information on various websites it was clear that before we reached the north of the country they’d had some really nasty cold, wet weather up there, luckily this had gone by the time we got there. Where we got lucky with rain we had some bad luck in the Doi Chiang Dao and Chiang Saen areas with mist/fog resulting in losing several hours in the mornings at each of these locations. It was quite difficult to know what to take clothes wise, the Laem Pak Bia Area was mid-30soC, dry heat, dropping to mid-20soC at night, while in the north the day-time temperature hit high teens, dropping to 2/3oCs at night (e.g. Doi Inthanon). Temperatures can range widely even if you spend one day at one location, Doi Inthanon being the perfect example, cool in the morning at the Highland

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Resort, baking hot by 09:00 on the km 13 trail, then as you get higher you need to start applying the layers and then by late-afternoon at Mr Deang’s the thermals and down jackets need to go on. As expected in Thailand, the food was generally very good. There was plenty of little shops to buy food/drink as we were driving around with even small villages/towns appearing to have 7/11s and similar shops. It’s worth noting that in most of the parks, with the exception of Doi Inthanon, the availability of food was pretty hit and miss. I’d originally planned on having less time at Kaeng Krachan National Park and having some time at Doi Ang Khang, however because I didn’t hear back from the owners of Ban Luang Resort at Doi Ang Khang (and with my visit likely to coincide with the busy new year period) I opted to change my originally planned itinerary to the one I finally carried out, reported herein. I think we could have done with one extra day on Doi Lang, but was glad we had a day at Chiang Saen. I could have probably arranged the last couple of days slightly differently to have fitted the above in, however the time at the parks near Chiang Mai and Bangkok were rewarding in their own rights and a nice relaxing way to finish the trip.

Birding Sites
There is a great deal of really useful information on the following three websites; this is essential reading and preparation material for anyone planning a birding trip to Thailand: • • • Dave Sargeant: Nick Upton: Stijn De Win (Birding2Asia):

Below are some of my notes on the locations we visited with some details of the better birds we recorded at each.

Pak Thale/Laem Pak Bia Area
We had one full day and a half day (morning) birding here. We drove to Pak Thale first from Bangkok, arriving just after first light, the journey taking about two hours at that time of the day. We visited the following sites during our time here: Pak Thale Shorebird Conservation Centre, Laem Pak Bia Salt Pans, King’s Project, Laem Pak Bia Sand Spit, Abandoned Building, Wat Komnaram. All of the birding locations here are very close together, meaning that it is easy to get round a number of them during the course of the day. The number of waders along this section of coast was simply staggering, thousands and thousands of them, with birds on salt pans and rice paddies. The directions on Dave & Nicks sites are pretty accurate for here. Despite the daunting number of birds it was fairly easy to locate the lone Spoonbilled Sandpiper that was present at Pak Thale, though I know that that is not always the case as people we met had missed them in the time after our visit.

Key Species Notes:
Spoon-billed Sandpiper: One bird seen on two occasions at Pak Thale Shorebird Conservation Centre. The bird favoured the same salt pan on both dates. This salt pan was a couple of hundred yards past the Pak Thale Shorebird Centre. The first time we saw the bird it was busy preening, the second time was feeding. Was found about here both days: 13° 8.858', 100° 3.742' (both sightings in the morning). Chinese Egret: One present on Laem Pak Bia Sand Spit. We got the boat with Mr Deang who knows exactly where the birds are. The trip to the sand spit was very enjoyable and we also had c.40 Malaysian Plover but no White-faced Plovers unfortunately.

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Nordmann’s Greenshank, Great Knot and Long-toed Stint: Part of a large number of waders present at Pak Thale Shorebird Centre and Laem Pak Bia Salt Pans. Present throughout and easy to find during our visit.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper record shot off my IPhone at Pak Thale Shorebird Conservation Centre

Chinese Egret at Laem Pak Bia Sand Spit

Long-toed Stint at Laem Pak Bia Salt Pans

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Other species we recorded in this area included: Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, Ruddy-breasted Crake, ‘Eastern’ Black-tailed Godwit, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Turnstone, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Grey-headed Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing, Heuglin’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Hoopoe, Little Green Bee-eater, Wryneck, Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Racket-tailed Treepie, Malaysian Pied Fantail, Oriental Reed Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Oriental Skylark, White-shouldered Starling and Plain-backed Sparrow.

Little Green Bee-eater (left) and Malaysian Pied Fantail (right)

Petchaburi Rice Fields
We spent an enjoyable afternoon birding at the Petchaburi Rice Fields (c.3.5hrs). Nick Upton’s directions are good for finding the location. We spent some time at the Nong Pla Lai Raptor Watch Point (identified by the sign shown below) where we connected with Great Spotted Eagle almost immediately, however the real highlight here was the adult male Pied Harrier that gave a nice view as it flew overhead. We also birded around the Radio Mast and Fish Pond Road. Some of the birds we saw included: Eastern Marsh Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite, Black-eared Kite, Osprey, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Bronze-winged Jacana, Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Asian Openbill, Plaintive Cuckoo, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Little Green Bee-eater, Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, Bluethroat and Asian Golden Weaver.

Greater Spotted Eagle sign (left) with Greater Spotted Eagle flying over it, and a close-up (right) at Nong Pla Lai Raptor Watch Point

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Kaeng Krachan National Park Area
Very enjoyable birding here, we did far better than perhaps we expected. We spent our time here as follows: • • • • • Day 1: Lung Sin Waterhole (07:00-12:00) and (14:30-18:00) and Baan Maka (12:15-14:15). Also night-drive around Baan Maka (20:30-21:30); Day 2: Kaeng Krachan NP – higher elevation areas above km 27.5 and between Panoen Tung campsite and Tortip Waterfall (06:00-19:00); Day 3: Kaeng Krachan NP – higher elevation areas above km 27.5 and between Panoen Tung campsite and Tortip Waterfall (06:00-19:00); Day 4: Kaeng Krachan NP – lower elevation areas: access road (06:15-08:00 and 16:0018:00), Ban Krang campsite (08:00-09:00 and 12:00-12:30), Youth Camp trail (09:00-12:00), area between Streams 1 and 3 (12:30-16:30); and Day 5: Kaeng Krachan NP – lower elevation areas, similar to above.

It is inevitable that your time in Thailand will hit a weekend. National Parks in Thailand are horrendous for birding/peace and quiet on a weekend. Stuffed full of people not really interested in the place/its wildlife. While it may not totally ruin the birding (they generally don’t go far from their cars) it can be a pain just due to the noise generated etc. As our first day was a Sunday I decided to book up the Lung Sin Waterhole for our first day (arranged through the ever-helpful Tom at Baan Maka). We’d then avoid the crowds and hopefully when we would get into the park on Monday morning it would be a lot quieter. This worked well – but see Doi Inthanon account as this isn’t always the case! The Lung Sin Waterhole was a brilliant way to learn some of the new birds in the area with great views obtained of a number of skulking species. Within the park itself we organised to spend two days at the higher elevations (one day with local guide Mr Piak and another with a driver – both days with their 4x4s – pretty important to get to the top). The main reason for this was to ensure we had enough time to connect with the higher elevation species up there, e.g. Ratchet-tailed Treepie. We also had two days (with no guides/drivers) in the lower elevations to try for things like pittas, broadbills and other lowland specialities. During our time here it was much ‘birdier’ whilst we were at higher elevations. Although slower lower down we saw some really good birds here.

One of the stream crossing points at Kaeng Krachan

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Key Species Notes:
Eared Pitta: At about 5pm after a full day in the Lung Sin Waterhole I noticed some movement at the back of the viewing area. Gradually the bird came closer to the hide, eventually coming to the pool to bathe! It then showed well for about 30 minutes, surrounded by 5 Siberian Blue Robins! A huge surprise seeing this, usually shy, species so well.

Eared Pitta at Lung Sin Waterhole – showed incredibly well near dusk

Blue Pitta: Seen in the lower elevations of Kaeng Krachan NP between Stream 2 and Stream 3. We were walking along a side trail off the road when we heard a male calling. We followed the sound and after about 30 minutes of tracking it and positioning ourselves in an area overlooking a small clearing we got very good views of it as it came close to us to investigate what we were doing.

Blue Pitta near Stream 2 at Kaeng Krachan National Park

Ratchet-tailed Treepie: A pair seen at high elevation (above 27.5 km). Look out for the Collared Babblers and Black-throated Laughingthrushes as the Ratchet-tailed Treepies appear to follow quietly behind them foraging on prey flushed by the mixed flock.

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Kalij Pheasant and Grey Peacock-Pheasant: Several male/female Kalij Pheasants seen along the road beyond the streams below 27.5 km. Grey Peacock-Pheasant heard at several locations from the road.

Kalij Pheasant (male) on the road at Kaeng Krachan National Park

Silver-breasted Broadbill: A single, vocal bird seen along the road beyond the Panoen Tung Campsite. Black-and-Yellow Broadbill: A single, vocal male seen near Stream 2 on two dates. Black-and-Red Broadbill: A single, silent bird seen near the river below the Youth Camp. Great Hornbill, Tickell’s Brown Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill and Oriental Pied Hornbill: Hornbills were very vocal and very evident in and around the park. We got good views of all of them during our stay. The best spot for the Tickell’s was near Stream 2, the others appeared more widespread (Oriental Pied Hornbill coming to food at Baan Maka). Great Hornbill is one of the most impressive birds I’ve ever seen!

Great Hornbill (left) and Oriental Pied Hornbill (right) at Kaeng Krachan National Park

Bamboo Woodpecker: One seen in Bamboo near Panoen Tung Campsite, others heard in this area.
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker 11

Ferruginous Partridge, Green-legged Partridge and Bar-backed Partridge: All seen well. Ferruginous was seen on the road between Panoen Tung Campsite and Tortip Waterfall and was heard near Stream 2. Green-legged and Bar-backed Partridge were both seen well at Lung Sin Waterhole. Slaty-legged Crake: One around Lung Sin Waterhole for most of the day, spent the majority of the morning behind the hide but came out and bathed in the late afternoon. Siberian Blue Robin: At least five birds present at the Lung Sin Waterhole, including at least two adult males. Very smart birds, always wavering their tails up and down. Red-headed Trogon and Orange-breasted Trogon: Red-headed Trogon seen in a fruiting tree near 27.5 km with Orange-breasted Trogon heard just below; Orange-breasted Trogons also seen near Stream 1, Stream 2 and the Youth Camp. Some of the other birds seen in the Kaeng Krachan area included: Rufous-bellied Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black Baza, Crested Goshawk, Besra, Shikra, Red Junglefowl, Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Dollarbird, Green-billed Malkoha, Raffles’s Malkoha, Thickbilled Green Pigeon, Ashy-headed Green Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Violet Cuckoo, Asian Barred Owlet, Brown Hawk Owl, Spotted Owlet, Collared Owlet, Large-tailed Nightjar, Greyrumped Treeswift, White-browed Piculet, Speckled Piculet, Black-and-Buff Woodpecker, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, Common Flameback, Greater Yellownape, Great Barbet, Moustached Barbet, Green-eared Barbet, Common Green Magpie, Grey Treepie, Racket-tailed Treepie, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Hair-crested Drongo, Ashy Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Blackwinged Cuckooshrike, Ashy Minivet, Rosy Minivet, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Bluewinged Leafbird, Lesser Green Leafbird, Black-naped Monarch, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Blue Rock Thrush, White-rumped Shama, Black-crested Bulbul, Sootyheaded Bulbul, Flavescent Bulbul, Ochraceous Bulbul, Radde’s Warbler, Two-barred Greenish Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Alstrom’s Warbler, Sultan Tit, Velvetfronted Nuthatch, Common Hill Myna, Golden-crested Myna, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Abbot’s Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Collared Babbler, Golden Babbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, Blackthroated Laughingthrush, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler, White-bellied Erpornis, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Crimson Sunbird.

Common Green Magpie (left) at Lung Sin Waterhole and Crested Serpent Eagle (right) Kaeng Krachan National Park

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Red Junglefowl (left) and Green-legged Partridge (right) at Lung Sin Waterhole

Siberian Blue Robin (left) at Lung Sin Waterhole and Sultan Tit (right) at Kaeng Krachan National Park

Doi Inthanon National Park Area
We spent several days birding around Doi Inthanon. We visited the following areas at the approximate times: • • • • • Day 1: Parakeet Conservation Area (06:30-08:30), km 13 trail (09:00-12:00), Mr Deang’s (12:30-14:00), Siritan, Wachirathan and Mae Klang Waterfalls (14:00-16:30), km 30 campsite (16:30-17:30); Day 2: Summit area (aborted), km 37.5 trail (08:30-11:30), Mr Deang’s (12:00-13:30), km 34.5 trail (14:00-16:30), km 30 campsite (17:00-18:00); Day 3: Summit area (06:30-14:30), Orchid Garden (15:00-17:00), Mr Deang’s (17:0018:00); Day 4: km 13 trail (07:00-09:00), km 34.5 trail (10:00-13:00 and 14:30-17:30), Mr Deang’s (13:00-14:30 and 1730-18:00); and Day 5: Summit Area (06:30-08:30), km 37.5 trail (09:00-11:00), Mr Deang’s (11:00-12:00).

The good thing about Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in the country at 2,565 m/8,415 feet, is the range in habitats available for birding. The lower levels of the mountain consist of dry scrub and Dipterocarp forest, there is a fair amount of agricultural areas and some gardens, this leads up to moist rainforest then mossy, montane forest and even a small sphagnum bog. There are also several rivers, some swamps and ponds etc. Birding in the different habitats is easy due to the c40 km road
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


system that goes all the way to the summit and the several trails that are possible to walk. The scenery is beautiful. The downside to the road is the easy access for tourists, it was incredibly busy here. Despite birding at Doi Inthanon being like birding in the centre of a large city for the first three days of our stay we did see some really good birds. The number of people in the park was overwhelming and although we were warned it would be busy we were really surprised by just how many people were here; even an hour before it was light! It appears as though the Thai’s have a fascination with frost, and sunrises…!

Wachirathan Waterfall (left) and mountain views on Christmas morning (right)

We attempted to get to the Summit on Day 2 because the weather was good, however we aborted this when we hit a traffic jam about 3 km from the summit, even though it was still nowhere near first light! Despite the throng of people at the waterfalls we still managed to connect with the main targets here, which was a miracle! The trails at km 13, 34.5 and 37.5 were generally free from people so much quieter (apart from the annoying constant noise of scooters). The summit broadwalk, even during the quieter periods of our time was stacked out with people. Pretty much none of the people on the trail were interested in the wildlife/scenery/habitats etc. and most walked around making a load of noise on their IPhones/IPads… this was incredibly frustrating when trying to see secretive birds, however the birds must be used to this kind of din and so we still managed to see most of what we wanted too, but it didn’t make for a particularly enjoyable experience. We came across some really impressive ‘bird waves’ along the km 34.5 trail. The information on Nick and Dave’s sites is pretty accurate, though note the entrance to the km 37.5 trail is hard to find and overgrown. The best way to find it is: go through the second park gate (checkpoint at km 37.5). There is a left turn (road) almost immediately; park on the left straight after the junction (look out for birds coming for mealworms here). The trail head is directly opposite the T junction. Mr Deang has maps of the mountain and various key birding locations which is very useful, and possibly more accurate than the info online.

Key Species Notes:
Blossom-headed Parakeet: The birding from the tower hide was very good (from dawn) and we were met by the guy who lives in the house next to it who provided us with a very welcome cup of tea and some fruit. He’d also got a log-book and it was a good spot for buying some nice locally produced art work. We had very nice views of 25 Blossom-headed Parakeets as they gathered in the early morning before heading off for the day to feed. Black-tailed Crake: We got very nice views of two birds at the km 30 campsite marsh, between 17:00-18:00. Both birds walked out and crossed an open area of grass then came back out and walked around for a short while showing very well.

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


White-capped Water Redstart (River Chat) and Plumbeous Water Redstart: Both seen well at the very busy Wachirathan Waterfall. I was very surprised to get these so easily given the number of people in/around the river. Very smart birds, the White-capped Water Redstart was half way up the main waterfall and the Plumbeous Water Redstart (a male) was below the falls by some smaller rapids. Slaty-backed Forktail and Black-backed Forktail: The Slaty-backed Forktail was sat preening below the Wachirathan Waterfall where it seemed oblivious to the noise of the people. The Blackbacked Forktail was to the left of the bridge at the start of the km 13 trail, although originally very nervous and flighty some careful repositioning along the river bank enabled me to get good views.

Plumbeous Water Redstart (left) and Black-backed Forktail (right)

Daurian Redstart: A stunning male in the Orchid Garden was a nice surprise. Other birds here included numerous Olive-backed Pipits and a huge flock of White-eyes.

Daurian Redstart (left)

White-browed Shortwing: Very good views of a male at relatively close-range to the right of the start of the summit broadwalk. A couple of others were heard calling here but not seen. Has a tendency to stick to the very dark forest floor where you can just see its ‘white-brow’ hopping around! Dark-sided Thrush: Very good views of three birds, one seen below Mr Deang’s restaurant seen on a couple of dates and two seen on the summit broadwalk trail. Pygmy Wren-Babbler (Pygmy Cupwing) and Eye-browed Wren-Babbler: Pygmy WrenBabbler seen very well coming to food opposite the entrance to the km 37.5 trail, others heard whilst
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


on the km 34.5 and 37.5 trails. Eye-browed Wren-Babbler seen very well along the km 37.5 trail, approximately 400 m in.

Dark-sided Thrush (left) and Pygmy Wren-Babbler (Pygmy Cupwing) (right)

Collared Falconet: One bird foraging about 1 km along the trail at km 13 with another one in the car parking area at the start of km 13. Both on the same date at a similar time and considered to be two different birds. Black-headed Woodpecker: Having dipped this everywhere else we tried for it I eventually got some brief but very good views of this incredibly impressive-looking Picus woodpecker. We had flight views and heard birds calling along the km 13 trail on Day 1. We went back on Day 4 from about first light and again had tantalising flight views and heard them calling. A short but uphill bushwacking session got us to where their calls were coming from and I finally got very nice views of at least three birds before they cleared off rather sharpish. Slaty-bellied Tesia: Fairly common, heard calling at several locations and seen well along the km 34.5 and 37.5 trails on several dates. Asian Stubtail: One seen very well at very close range along the km 37.5 km trail (approximately 200 m in). Spectacled Barwing: Two seen along the road near km 38 but views a bit brief. Also two seen at the start of the km 34.5 trail. Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker: One male seen well feeding in the mistletoe in Mr Deang’s garden in with a mixed flock of Chestnut-flanked and Oriental White-eyes and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker. Mrs Gould’s Sunbird and Green-tailed Sunbird: Both seen well and fairly common along km 34.5 trail and around the summit car park and summit broadwalk. Both species are spectacular when adult males seen. Birds appeared to be attracted to the pink flowering cherry blossom. Mountain Bamboo Partridge and Rufous-throated Partridge: Five Mountain Bamboo Partridge seen crossing the road near the Orchid Garden and one Rufous-throated Partridge seen well from the summit broadwalk trail. We managed to dip the ones near the summit visitor centre which everyone else we spoke to had seen! Eurasian Woodcock: One bird foraging in the swamp/bog within the summit broadwalk trail was proving very popular with the Thai photographers/birders. Other highlights of our time here were many and included: Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cook’s Swift, House Swift, Asian Barred Owlet, Short-billed Minivet, Long-tailed Minivet, Grey-chinned Minivet, Chestnutbellied Rock Thrush, Blue Whistling Thrush (eugenei and caeruleus), Eyebrowed Thrush, Scaly
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker 16

Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Striated Swallow, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Hill Prinia, Yellow-bellied Fairy-Fantail, White-throated Fantail, Large Niltava, Small Niltava, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Vivid Niltava, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Whitegorgeted Flycatcher, Little Pied Flycatcher, Himalayan Bluetail, Pied Bushchat, Grey Bushchat, Greybacked Shrike, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Hume’s Treecreeper, Japanese Tit, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Grey-throated Babbler, Golden Babbler, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Yunnan Fulvetta, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Darkbacked Sibia, Rufous-backed Sibia, Blue-winged Minla, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Blyth’s ShrikeBabbler, Clicking Shrike-Babbler, Mountain Bulbul, Ashy Bulbul, White-headed Bulbul, Mountain Tailorbird, Radde’s Warbler, Pallas’s Warbler, Hume’s Warbler, Buff-barred Warbler, Ashy-throated Warbler, Buff-throated Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler and Blyth’s Leaf Warbler.

Blue Whistling Thrush - eugenei (left) and Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush (right)

Grey-throated Babbler (left) and Yunnan Fulvetta (right)

Large Niltava - male (left) and Rufous-bellied Niltava - female (right)
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Doi Chiang Dao Area
We spent several days birding in the Doi Chiang Dao area. We visited the following areas at the approximate times: • • • • • Day 1: Wat Tamphaplong (16:00-18:00); Day 2: Chiang Dao Rice Paddies and village area (all day); Day 3: Chiang Dao village area (07:00-08:30), Wat Tamphaplong (09:30-10:30), Nature Trail (10:30-14:00), Checkpoint road to Muang Khong (14:30-17:30); Day 4: Doi Chiang Dao Mountain – DYK substation area (06:30-17:30); and Day 5: Chiang Dao ponds and dry forest (07:00-08:30), Nature Trail and Lower Fence Trail (09:30-12:00).

Birding in the Doi Chiang Dao area was hard at times, particularly because our visit coincided with a period of very foggy/misty mornings, often not clearing until gone 10:00 which essentially meant we lost three hours birding each day, at the best time of the day. This wasn’t a problem when we were on the mountain as we were above it all then. However, where we had bad luck with the visibility in the mornings we got some great luck in having Neil Lawton on hand at Malee’s who was able to help direct us to the numerous good birding spots in the area, borne about by the range in habitats present in the local vicinity. We saw some really great birds in this area, a lot of that is down to the information we got from Neil and again, a lot of the information we got from Nick and Dave’s sites was incredibly helpful and accurate. The mountain is an incredibly impressive and dominating feature on the landscape. Wat Tamphaplong is also very impressive hidden away at the foot of the mountain.

Doi Chiang Dao (left) and Wat Tamphaplong (right) equals birding in impressive natural and man-made scenery

A word of warning about the trails, the Nature Trail is quite hard going for the first couple of hundred metres, fairly steep, involves climbing through a range of tree roots and over some very sharp boulders. While the Fence Trail (at least the section of it we walked) was less rocky/root-covered it was pretty hard going (very steep and slippy/muddy underfoot). Malee organised for us to have a driver (Uncle Buck!) and a 4x4 for the trip up to the DYK station (a 4x4 is essential for this trip and the road is very rough in some places). This trip up to the top went very well, although unfortunately we dipped Mrs Hume’s Pheasant (but did see some great birds!). We shared the trip up the mountain with two British birders (Simon Woolley and Julia Casson see also their Thailand trip report here: who we’d bumped into at Baan Maka and Doi Inthanon and had enjoyed our time birding with them, sharing the mountain trip with them was great fun and certainly helped increase our day list here – thanks for the Oreos and Nuts!
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker 18

Key Species Notes:
Great Nuthatch: Two seen in Pine trees along the approach road to the DYK Substation on Doi Chiang Dao, two/three others were heard calling along the Summit Trail. A very impressive bird, huge, and one of the main targets for us on the mountain, even better that it was practically the first bird seen in the day and was my 400th trip bird. Blyth’s Frogmouth: One heard from the car park below Wat Tamphaplong, unfortunately it wouldn’t come in! Long-tailed Broadbill: One heard along the Nature Trail, unfortunately not seen as was distant off trail. Silver-breasted Broadbill: A small presumably family group of four/six birds quietly feeding near the entrance to the Nature Trail showed well on our final morning here. Banded Kingfisher: A female in bamboo on the trail connecting the Nature Trail and the Fence Trail. Showed very well at close range, potentially attracted by the commotion of a bird wave.

Banded Kingfisher – female (left) and Giant Nuthatch, with Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (right)

Red-billed Blue Magpie: A small group of five/six birds seen near Chiang Dao in a patch of dry forest. Unfortunately they were very flighty and backlit so the views were not the best. A shame as this is a stunning bird. Rufous-winged Buzzard: One seen hunting to the north of the outskirts of Chiang Dao. Siberian Rubythroat: Fairly common in scrub, although highly secretive most of the time. Easy to locate by call. One positive aspect of the fog/mist was the dew that formed on leaves in the scrub/grass. During the early morning the Rubythroats would occasionally show themselves a bit better as they bathed on the leaves! Asian Wire-tailed Swallow: Easy to connect with on the Rice Paddies. Vastly outnumbered by Barn Swallow but still easy to pick out, with good views obtained. Eurasian Jay: A very distinctive sub-species (leucotis) seen along the Checkpoint road to Muang Khong, on the road before the DYK substation and in some dry forest near Chiang Dao village – where eight were seen together. Definitely one to see! Grey-headed Parrotbill: A small flock near the DYK substation moving through the canopy of the forest with a bird-wave.
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker 19

Other highlights of our time here included: Pintail Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Crested Treeswift, Bamboo Woodpecker, Grey-capped Pygmy-Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Lesser Yellownape, Collared Owlet, Black-collared Starling, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Streaked Wren-Babbler, Long-tailed Shrike, Marten’s Warbler, Thick-billed Warbler, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Buffbarred Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Claudia’s Leaf Warbler, Davison’s Leaf Warbler, Pallas’s Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Two-barred Greenish Warbler, Slender-billed Oriole, Maroon Oriole, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Common Green Magpie, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Black-crested Bulbul, Sultan Tit, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Blue Rock Thrush and Common Rosefinch.

Collared Owlet near the DYK Substation

Black-crested Bulbul (left) and Maroon Oriole (right)

Thaton Rice Paddies
We had a half day (afternoon) birding the Thaton Rice Fields (far more birdy than the Chiang Dao Rice Paddies – but much larger too). To be honest I found the directions online for this site a bit difficult to follow and we ended up getting lost, and dinting the hire car bumper on a hidden concrete post in the grass when trying to turn round. In the end we parked on the main road and just walked
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


in. We only had a couple of hours here but got several nice species by walking the tracks/rice paddy edges and kicking through the stubble, though watch where you put your feet here...

Key Species Notes:
Greater Painted Snipe: A very good looking female was seen at fairly close range. Siberian Stonechat, Stejneger’s Stonechat, Pied Bushchat: A large number of chats were present all across the areas we looked at. Other birds here included: Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Common Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Himalayan Swiftlet, Asian Palm Swift, House Swift, Rufous Turtle Dove, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, Brown Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, Taiga Flycatcher, Siberian Rubythroat, Wryneck, Ashy Woodswallow, Black-collared Starling, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Richard’s Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit and Red-throated Pipit.

White-throated Kingfisher (left) and what you don’t want to find when wading knee deep through grass…

Doi Lang
We had two full days birding on Doi Lang and could have done with one more day. The birding here was very enjoyable and we got great weather too. On our first full day on Doi Lang we hit the stakeout birds where the Thai photographers were providing mealworms for the birds and on the second day we mopped up a few stakeout birds we still needed and spent more time walking along the roads/trails/fields trying to pick up the birds not at stakeouts. As mentioned above we benefited hugely by the up-to-date information received from Neil Lawton whilst at Malee’s, we also had met two other British birders (Rob and Pat) who very kindly drew us a detailed map of the stakeout locations. This information was also incredibly useful, so thank you. Because we didn’t have a 4x4 we had to drive in and out from the Fang side which was a bit of a pain as it meant a longer drive as we were staying in Thaton (poor planning on my part). There is now also an entrance fee of 200 Baht to get onto Doi Lang from the west side but your ticket is valid for a few (5?) days. A few road improvements going on too. Along the road there are now a lot of signs about not feeding the birds etc., ironically these were the best places for the majority of the birds as this is where a lot of the feeding stations were. Birding here is great, however some of the behaviour of the Thai photographers is totally disgraceful and a real shame as it gives them all a bad name, they are incredibly loud and quite rude too in some cases
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker 21

– though not all as we did meet some very helpful people. Whilst here we had a group of photographers with the Spectacled Barwing song on a loop, the birds looked pretty stressed out. I even saw one photographer throwing sticks and stones at a White-browed Laughingthrush to keep it from eating his mealworms as it was obviously not the desired species. They all put little pop-up hides out about a foot away from the feeding area then chat amongst themselves really loudly. It can be very frustrating. Notwithstanding the above it was far more enjoyable birding here than at Doi Inthanon (with good views of Burma too) as there was hardly any general tourists, or frost/sunrise tourists. There’s very little in the way of food/drink establishments on the mountain so make sure you’ve got plenty of supplies to last the day.

The view from Doi Lang looking into Burma – note Burmese army bases on ridges in photo on right

Key Species Notes:
Ultramarine Flycatcher: A stunning male bird coming to food placed in the first bamboo ‘do not feed the birds’ sign on the west side. A very popular bird with the photographers but unfortunately I’d knocked a button on my camera and ended up with a blue hue on my images… Golden Bush Robin: A male and female seen well at the feeding areas near the San Ju View Point – again both birds showed well, stunning birds.

Golden Bush Robin - female-type (left) and Ultramarine Flycatcher (right)

Sapphire Flycatcher: A non-breeding male seen moderately high in trees along the first ridge after the second set of ‘do not feed the birds’ signs.

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Blue-fronted Redstart: A female on a bare slope near the San Ju View Point showed well busily feeding. White-tailed Robin: After spending ages in dark gullies dipping this in Malaysia and earlier on the trip at Doi Chiang Dao we got very good views of a very inquisitive female that was hanging around a number of the feeding areas. I’d literally just stepped out of the car, put my hand in my pocket to check the mealworms hadn’t escaped, turned round and it was sat right behind me out in the open on the road, and I almost trod on it! Chestnut Thrush: One on a bare slope near the San Ju View Point showed well. Himalayan Bluetail and Red-flanked Bluetail: Certainly one of the highlights of birding at Doi Lang. Both showed incredibly well in the higher areas, mainly between San Ju View Point and the Doi Lang Camp. Himalayan was much commoner than Red-flanked (10:1). Birds were attracted to feeding areas, although many were picked up whilst walking the roads where they were feeding.

Himalayan Bluetail (left) and Red-flanked Bluetail (right)

Siberian Rubythroat: A female and a juvenile male showed incredibly well at the feeding areas, coming within a few feet right out in the open! Chestnut-headed Tesia: One very showy bird at a feeding station was very popular with the Thai photographers. It was incredibly quick-moving so hard to get a photo, but I managed a record shot of this usually elusive and very smart bird.

Chestnut-headed Tesia (left) and Siberian Rubythroat (right)
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Red-faced Liocichla: Very nice views of a couple of birds at a feeding station near the Upper Army Camp – they seem to appear and disappear very quietly. Spectacled Barwing: Several seen at various locations on the mountain at feeding stations (e.g. Upper Army Camp) and away from feeding stations. Unfortunately a target for the Thai’s who had tape of it on loop.

Red-faced Liocichla (left) and Spectacled Barwing (right)

Fire-tailed Sunbird: A couple of juvenile/non-breeding birds seen in Buddleia-type bushes near the San Ju View Point, unfortunately adult males in breeding plumage not seen. Burmese Shrike: One seen in fields near the Lower Army Camp. Crested Bunting: Several birds (males/females) in weedy/tall grass fields near the Lower Army Camp. Generally quite secretive though, best early morning or late afternoon. Spot-breasted Parrotbill: Two inquisitive birds showed very well about 1 km beyond the Lower Army Camp. Crested Finchbill: Very common around the San Ju View Point area.

Spot-breasted Parrotbill (left) and Crested Finchbill (right)
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Other highlights of our time here included: Mountain Bamboo-Partridge, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Hoopoe, Grey-capped Pygmy-Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Stripebreasted Woodpecker, Great Barbet, Linneated Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Pacific Swift, Cook’s Swift, Grey Treepie, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Striated Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Maroon Oriole, Blue Whistling Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Chestnut-bellied RockThrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Large Niltava, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Hume’s Treecreeper, Asian House Martin, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Buff-throated Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Buff-barred Warbler, Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Japanese White-eye, Blackthroated Bushtit, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit, White-browed Laughingthrush, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Golden Babbler, Blue-winged Minla, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Blyth’s Shrike Babbler, Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Whiskered Yuhina, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Little Bunting, Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Black-throated Sunbird, Common Rosefinch and Spot-winged Grosbeak. Again we dipped Mrs Hume’s Pheasant here. Seeing this bird here is probably more luck than skill. One flew across the road about 5 minutes after we’d driven past apparently on one day!

White-gorgeted Flycatcher (left) and Black-throated Bushtit (right)

Chiang Saen Area (Mekong River and Chiang Saen Lake)
We had one full day in this area – New Year’s Day. The area was a lot easier to get around than I’d feared after reading a few trip reports. The directions provided in Dave’s information are spot on. We were in the area for pretty much first light and headed straight for the Mekong River (Rim Khong Restaurant area), however the area was covered in thick mist/fog until about 10:00 (when we could finally see into Laos). The poor visibility resulted in a very slow few hours, which was a shame. The main targets here were River Lapwing, Long-billed Plover and Small Pratincole on the sand bars. The only problem was that when the mist/fog eventually lifted it exposed a Peregrine Falcon sat in the middle of the best sandbar! A drive to another sandbar resulted in another Peregrine Falcon being discovered, rather frustrating! We ditched the river around lunchtime with no joy on the main targets, but a few other nice bits seen and headed to the lake where a hastily arranged boat trip was taken onto the water to try and get close to some wildfowl. After a very successful boat trip we made a quick smash and grab raid back at the river where we finally connected with River Lapwing. We then spent the remainder of the late afternoon at the harrier roost spot (near Wat Bamakno – a very impressive building). The harrier roost was simply outstanding, a real highlight of the whole trip. It was a very enjoyable day (despite the c1.5 hr drive each way from Thaton) and just a shame we lost so much of the day due to poor visibility. We even had a national rarity!
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Mekong River Sandbars from Rim Khong Restaurant (left) and Chiang Saen Lake from the boat (right)

Key Species Notes:
River Lapwing: Two birds seen on the sandbar opposite the Rim Khong Restaurant early afternoon, surprisingly difficult to pick out amongst the debris on the sandbar. Yellow-legged Buttonquail: Four birds seen to the north of Rim Khong Restaurant. Grey-throated Martin: About 25 birds flying around the River Mekong near the Rim Khong Restaurant. Note that there appears to be a huge engineering project underway along the riverbank (at least 1 km north of the Rim Khong Restaurant, with evidence it will go south all the way into Chiang Saen town too). The engineering project appears to be creating a stone/rock riverbank, presumably a flood prevention/riverbank erosion prevention scheme. This is resulting in a lot of riverside vegetation being removed, as well as the banks that the martins were breeding in. Long-tailed Duck: Two birds seen on Chiang Saen Lake represent only the second national record! So a pretty good bird for my Thailand list!

Long-tailed Duck at Chiang Saen Lake – the second record for Thailand I understand

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Pied Harrier and Eastern Marsh Harrier: An incredible spectacle at the Wat Bamakno harrier roost as approximately 200 Pied Harrier and approximately 300 Eastern Marsh Harriers came in to roost in the late afternoon. Most of the Pied Harriers were males! The only disappointment was that by the time most of them were coming in it was too dark to get any decent photographs. This is a must-see if coming to Northern Thailand in winter.

Male Pied Harrier coming in to roost at Wat Bamakno, Chiang Saen

Red-throated Pipit: An impressive sight was a flock of c.1500 birds that came into the Wat Bamakno harrier roost site! Other birds we saw in the area included: Lesser Whistling Duck, Mallard, Pintail, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, Purple Heron, Yellow Bittern, Common Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Greater Coucal, Lesser Coucal, Plaintive Cuckoo, Grey-headed Swamphen, Moorhen, Common Coot, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Common Snipe, Pintail Snipe, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Kentish Plover, Peregrine Falcon, Common Kestrel, Burmese Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Lanceolated Warbler, Dusky Warbler and Radde’s Warbler.

Huay Tueng Tao, Chiang Mai
We had a couple of hours here on our way to catch our flight back from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. I’d certainly recommend this place for some gentle birding as it was very birdy and quite easy birding too. Great if you’re spending some time in Chiang Mai as very close to the city. We’d driven down from Thaton (stopping briefly for breakfast at Malee’s) meaning we didn’t get birding till near 10am. We did a circuit round the lake and just stopped randomly and walked into the scrub/dry forest areas just before an area of rice paddies, we also did a very brief (15 minute) bash through the rice paddies but it was the hottest part of the day by this point so not much fun!

Key Species Notes:
We had a good range of species here including: Coppersmith Barbet, Linneated Barbet, Fork-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Rufous Treepie, Rosy Minivet, Black-naped Monarch, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Asian Red-rumped Swallow, Zitting Cisticola, Lanceolated Warbler, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Olivebacked Pipit, Indochinese Bushlark and White-crested Laughingthrush.

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher

Suan Luang Park, Bangkok
I had most of a day in Bangkok before my late-afternoon flight back to the UK so on Carlos’ recommendation I went to Suan Luang Park on the edge of the city (he’d visited the park before my arrival into the country). I’m glad he recommended it as it was a great location and I recorded over 60 species here in a half-day. There was less people here than on Doi Inthanon which was a nice bonus! This would be an ideal location if you’ve got time to kill in Bangkok, especially if this is your first trip to the Oriental region. It also gives great photographic opportunities (not that you can tell this from my pictures). I’d forgotten to charge my camera battery so ran out of power pretty quickly! Birding highlights here included: Coppersmith Barbet, White-throated Kingfisher, Black-capped Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Plaintive Cuckoo, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Asian Koel, Indian Roller, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, White-breasted Waterhen, Purple Heron, Blackcrowned Night-Heron, Yellow Bittern, Black-naped Oriole, Small Minivet, Malaysian Pied Fantail, Common Iora, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie Robin, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Richard’s Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit and Scaly-breasted Munia.

Asian Emerald Cuckoo (left) and Plaintive Cuckoo (right)

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Taiga Flycatcher (left) and Oriental Magpie Robin (right)

If you want any more detailed information about specific species mentioned above (I’ve not mentioned all species I’ve seen!) just drop me an email, likewise if you want any further specific information about logistics/birding locations etc .

Other Wildlife
We saw an interesting range of non-avian wildlife on the trip, my highlight being White-handed Gibbon. I’d seen this species in Taman Negara very briefly running through the trees. The views here were much more prolonged, allowing me to really study them. We also saw Long-tailed Macaque, Banded Langur, Dusky Langur, Crab-eating Mongoose, Yellow-throated Marten, Northern Treeshrew, Black Giant Squirrel, Burmese Striped Squirrel, Grey-bellied Squirrel, Pallas’ Squirrel, Variable Squirrel, Indochinese Ground Squirrel, House Rat and Malayan Porcupine (dead). We missed Elephant in Kaeng Krachan – saw lots of fresh muck. We also dipped both a ‘regular’ and a ‘black’ Leopard here. Both were seen by other visitors to Baan Maka during our stay. There was a large number of beautiful butterflies of all shapes, sizes and colour. We saw a couple of gecko, snakes and lizards etc. too.

White-handed Gibbon at Kaeng Krachan National Park
Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


Background Information/References/Resources
As set out at the beginning of this report the majority of my planning was based on the excellent websites put together by Dave Sargeant, Nick Upton and Stijn De Win. These sites really do have pretty much everything you need to plan a trip. Dave’s site is very helpful as it also contains a regularly updated ‘recent sightings’ page and Stijn’s site contains a number of GPS coordinates for a range of sites, and even locations within those sites where certain targets species can be found. Of great help was hearing from people who had birded in Thailand before/recently, all who provided something useful, thanks go to Mike Edgecombe, Tony Stones, Graham Gordon, Paul Cook, Dave Gandy and several people via Birdforum. Whilst in Thailand I had the great benefit of bumping into Neil Lawton and Neil and Eunice Parker (, Rob & Pat and Simon Woolley and Julia Casson as well as several other local/expat birders, all who kindly provided information that helped a great deal. Thanks to anyone else I’ve unintentionally forgotten. Thanks to Carlos too for all the background work done on targeting certain species at each location, and for making this such an enjoyable and successful trip. I used A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson. I thought the book was fairly good/useful and the maps are largely helpful. Most of the illustrations are the same as those in his South East Asia book – the old version, and as a result the taxonomy is now well out of date. The plates are difficult to follow due to the way they are set out, therefore I edited them to make it easier to use (see below) and brought the taxonomy up to date where possible, though it was nice to have a book specifically on Thailand. I also took a copy of Helm Field Guides: Birds of East Asia by Mark Brazil just to get another angle on some of the species I thought it would be beneficial for. I had Birds of Tropical Asia 3 on my IPhone and Carlos had downloaded a load of songs/calls from Xeno Canto onto his IPod. This combination worked well and we had most of what we needed.

Editing of the Birds of Thailand field guide to make matching plates to text easier

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker


I had a fantastic time and saw a great range of birds on this introduction to Thailand. Who can grumble with a list of 460 species in three weeks, especially when the list includes some of the best birds in the world: Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Chinese Egret, Blue Pitta, Eared Pitta, Great Hornbill, Tickell’s Brown Hornbill, Giant Nuthatch, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Himalayan Bluetail, Silver-breasted, Black-and-Yellow, Black-and-Red and Long-tailed Broadbills, Bamboo Woodpecker, Pied Harrier etc. Add in the amazing wildlife, scenery, habitats, great food and people and it’s easy to see why this trip was so good. It’s Taiwan for me next but will definitely be heading back to Thailand sometime soon; in fact probably in early 2015 where I plan on heading south for some Pittas! If you would like any further information please drop me an email to andywalker1000 AT subject Thailand Birding Thanks, Andy 1st February 2014.

Birding above the DYK Station on the Summit Trail at Doi Chiang Dao

Thailand Trip Report December 2013 – January 2014 © Andy Walker